January 30, 2018

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isa. 40.31).

7.30 am: A communion. Waiting for, say, the outcome of a medical test or a significant exam, or an employer’s decision about our future, or the overdue homecoming of a loved-one or friend, can be an utterly debilitating experience. We spend our days unable to focus on the task at hand, feeling vaguely nauseous and lethargic, and watching the clock. Isaiah’s scenario describes those who wait neither upon events nor people but upon God. They aren’t anxious, distracted, and enfeebled. More than the very opposite in fact. They experience something approaching superhuman enabling: a rejuvenating power to exceed far beyond their natural ability to endure and cope. And with it — by implication — vigour, optimism, and determination.

8.30 am: I cleansed my inbox, before reopening my conference paper file (while fielding incoming messages and emails throughout the morning). In the background: John Martyn (again). I’ve been utterly captivated by his use of the  Echoplex and WEM Copicat echo and delay systems ever since I saw him on The Old Grey Whistle Test, back in 1977, playing ‘I’d Rather Be the Devil’ from his Solid Air album, which was released that year. He was an extraordinary songwriter and guitar player who, tragically, fell victim to his self-destructive inclination.

11.00 am: A cup of PG Tips and an a square of dark chocolate is the closest I get to excess:

Creativity subjects being squeezed schools tell BBC‘. Parents have known this for some time. The provision of peripatetic music teachers, after-school art classes, and dramatic performances, concerts, and exhibitions for the public (which are some of the best ways to show-case a school’s vitality and commitment to its students) is increasingly at risk. (These things, and only these things, made my secondary school experience tolerable, and only just tolerable.):

Art Department, Nantyglo Comprehensive School (2001)

Fewer students studying art at GCSE and ‘A’-Level will inevitably impact on university applications to fine art and art history degrees. This, in turn, will reduce the number of really good graduates returning to secondary school as able and inspiring art teachers.

I was saddened to hear that my former art school tutor, John Selway, had died last year, aged 79 years. The last time we spoke was during an Opening at the Kickplate Gallery, Abertillery (his and my home town), in September 2016:

When he taught me painting in the late 1970s, he was never to be seen other than in a leather biker’s jacket and denims. He always reminded me of The Who’s drummer, Keith Moon. John, too, was a ‘bit of a lad’ and a ‘lovable rogue’. But, boy, could he paint … and at speed! Which he often would in our studio. A sight to behold. I learned more from what he did than from what he said. His students cleaned his brushes and put the caps back on his paint tubes at the end of each day. He wouldn’t because he knew that we would.

12.45 pm: I took an early lunch before walking to School to begin a long afternoon of MA fine art tutorials both there and at the Old College:

6.00 pm: Homeward:

7.30 pm: I listened to the latest composition-in-progress, which I’d developed further on Saturday. What’s missing? It feels lethargic and apathetic. I can either work with or against that condition: treat is as either a positive, defining characteristic or a negative deficiency. 9.45 pm: Retire.

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • If you can conceive of the painting after the next one, then don’t begin the next one.
  • Get into a habit of finishing things.
  • What’s the nature of ‘finished’ for you?
  • Title a work too early and it becomes too precious.
  • Talk about the work only in terms of its positive attributes.
  • What’s on the periphery of the idea?
  • Enlarge the scale of a colour and you increase the lightness of the perceived tone.
  • Avoid presupposing outcomes to approaches that you’ve never tried.
  • There’s rarely a simple solution to a complex problem. One must first simplify the problem.
  • Don’t give up on anything or anyone with the capacity to make sense of your life.
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January 31, 2018